All it took was a trade four days ago for James Harden to change the Rockets’ trajectory. After several years of mediocrity the Rockets were finally in the midst of rebuilding by having a young inexperienced team possessing future potential and a slew of draft picks including more than likely two lottery picks in the 2013 draft, but with the addition of Harden, most of those draft picks are gone and in return the Rockets received something they have been coveting since the T-Mac/Yao era: a young star to build around.
During the offseason Daryl Morey completely revamped the roster in such a way to acquire assets that will help him acquire an All-star quality player or begin the rebuilding process. Morey traded away Kyle Lowry, Samuel Dalembert, and Chase Budinger, amnestied Louis Scola, let Goran Dragic scamper over to Phoenix and received assets through sign and trade deals for Courtney Lee and Marcus Camby. Morey’s original goal was Dwight Howard but of course Howard ended up in L.A. After not cashing in on the Howard sweepstakes it looked as though the Rockets were set up to be one of the worst teams this season before the deal that was struck on Saturday night which sent Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, a potential lottery pick acquired from Toronto in the Lowry trade, and two more draft picks in exchange for Harden, Cole Aldrich, Deaquan Cook and Lazar Hayward.
Now Harden will team with Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, and Carlos Delfino whom the Rockets acquired through free agency this offseason, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris whom are the only three players left from last season’s roster and rookies Terrance Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Royce White and Scott Machado. The Rockets still are quite a long shot to make the playoffs this season barring any more moves, but their future is looking quite bright as Delfino is the oldest player on the team at 30 while everyone else is 26 or below.
For the Pistons, after starting 4-20 last season, they did end up going 21-21 the rest of the way to finish at 25-41, which is quite an improvement in such a small amount of time and in a lockout shortened season to boot. The best player on the Pistons is third-year center Greg Monroe. Last year Monroe led Detroit in points (15.4) and rebounds (9.7) and he is a good passing big man as he also threw in 2.3 assists per game. As far as acquisitions go, the Pistons did not do much except trade Ben Gordon to the Bobcats in exchange for Corey Maggette and the Pistons drafted three rookies in Andre Drummond (No. 9), Khris Middleton (No. 39), Kim English (No. 44) and brought over their 2011 draft pick Kyle Singler (No. 33) who played for Spain last year.
The talks around the Pistons’ organization are if the team makes the internal improvements necessary for the players to live up to their expectations, it has a chance at making the playoffs this year. Their playoff chances revolve around Monroe’s ability to continue to grow as a budding star, point guard Brandon Knight’s ability to improve his floor general capabilities (he only averaged a ridiculous 3.8 assists per game last season) and getting significant contribution from their bench that consists of veteran guards Maggette and Will Bynum and forwards Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye and Jason Maxiell.
Things to watch for:
- How soon will James Harden be able to get acclimated to his new teammates and the offense?
- Which Jeremy Lin will show up? Will he be closer to Linsanity of the New York days or the Jeremy Lin that had awful shooting woes and questionable decision making during the preseason?
- How many minutes will rookies Jones, Motiejunas and White receive?